Finger points to a second term as Hong Kong CE for Leung Chun-ying
As the government electoral reform package was voted down, the lack of a clear political cause made many protesters at the July 1 march - the smallest in years - resort to shouting that old pan-democratic chestnut: down with Leung Chun-ying.
The ironic thing is, if the reform package had passed, the chief executive's chance of securing a second term would have been extremely low. That would be simply a matter of arithmetic, given his low popularity rating. He might not even enter the race.
But now we may be in for seven years of Leung. This is because as the reform fails, we are back to the old "small circle" system of selection, with the 1,200-strong Election Committee. Suddenly, a Leung second term looks considerably likely. Indeed, he may have been the biggest beneficiary of the reform's failure, thanks to all the pan-democratic lawmakers and their united "No" vote.
That was what a few pro-establishment politicians such as James Tien Pei-chun had warned when they used Leung as the boogeyman to try to scare people into supporting the reform. They were ridiculed back then. Now we are staring at that very real possible outcome they warned against. That may be why Leung now appears in public with renewed confidence and with a spring in his step. Barely half a year ago, shortly after the end of the Occupy movement, he looked wary and grey.
There may have been short periods when Leung's plunging popularity ratings so alarmed Beijing that it had doubts about his ability to govern. There was a time when his public outings were dogged by angry protesters like those from Scholarism.
Now it's those kids from Scholarism like Joshua Wong Chi-fung and his girlfriend who get harassed in the streets while Leung and his lieutenants often manage to make public appearances unmolested.
He is again Beijing's man. Come 2017, his odds of being "reselected" will be all in his favour. If nothing else, Beijing will want to impose Leung on Hong Kong as a punishment for rejecting the electoral reform and challenging its prestige.
It's also Beijing's way of reciprocating to the pan-democrats who have given it the finger one too many times.